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West End to Reopen – But Will We Need to Stay Distanced?

Podcast Editor Matthew Seaman on the reopening of theatres as restrictions begin to ease.

After thirteen months of uncertainty, unemployment and… unmuting, we can finally look forward to some real-life entertainment once again. With Boris Johnson’s ‘irreversible’ roadmap out of lockdown on track, we have now been able to enjoy the privilege of having friends in the garden, or even visiting non-essential shops and outdoor restaurants. But as 17 May approaches, and if all goes as planned, the summer is looking positive.

What can we look forward to?

According to the government website, Step 3 of the lockdown restriction-easing permits ‘larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half-full (whichever is lower)’. The ‘rule of six’ will be moved indoors, and outdoor gatherings of up to 30 people will be allowed once again. On Monday, we received confirmation that this will go ahead on 17th. The full roadmap can be read here.

With this in mind, we can finally expect some West End lights to be illuminated for good. “The Mousetrap”, Agatha Christie’s legendary murder mystery, will be the first to take advantage of the relaxation, opening on Monday 17 May. The following shows also plan to raise their curtains within the coming weeks, with reduced capacities:

  • Death Drop – 19 May at Garrick Theatre
  • Love Letters – 19 May at Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – 20 May at Apollo Theatre
  • Globe 2021 Season – Starting 20 May with A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Les Misérables: Staged Concert – 20 May at Sondheim Theatre
  • Six The Musical – 21 May at Lyric Theatre
  • J’ouvert – 16 June at Harold Pinter Theatre
  • The Play That Goes Wrong – 18 June at Duchess Theatre
  • Hairspray – 21 June at London Coliseum
  • Adam Kay: This is Going to Hurt – 21 June at Palace Theatre
  • Heathers – 22 June at Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Walden – 22 June at Harold Pinter Theatre
  • Bach & Sons – 23 June at Bridge Theatre
  • Tina: The Tina Turner Musical – 24 June at Aldwych Theatre
  • Cinderella – 25 June at Gillian Lynne Theatre

Alongside this myriad of fan-favourites that are set to return, Nimax Theatres producer turned heroine, Nica Burns, boasts a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience for twenty-three producers who will make their West End debuts in her ‘Rising Stars Festival‘. Burns, who decided to open some of her productions at a loss before the Christmas lockdown, said: “A big thank you to Oliver Dowden and the DCMS for awarding us a Cultural Recovery Fund grant which has enabled us to re-open and support the Rising Stars Festival”.

west end to reopen

Nica Burns and the 23 Producers

Included in this array of one-off live events, is “Monday Night at the Apollo”, produced by Greg Barnett and Hugh Summers of Wild Mountain Productions, who have kindly offered us the code: KINGS20, for a discount on live-stream tickets for those who can’t make it to the theatre. This series of concerts features names such as: Lucie Jones (Waitress), Aimie Atkinson (Six) and Cassidy Janson.

But for how long will we need to remain socially distanced?

Behind the scenes, the government has been conducting trials with big indoor events, with 3,000 Liverpudlians enjoying a rave, last month, that contributed to some valuable scientific evidence. Subsequently, newspapers reported that Boris was ‘to be told’ that social distancing would not be needed at big events. With this break-through, it seems as though there is potential for the summer to be one to remember. The roadmap concludes with the hopeful statement that ‘all legal limits on social contact can be removed’ from 21 June. This includes the reopening of night clubs, and the lifting of restrictions on large events and performances.

It seems that there is no reason to not be optimistic about the reopening of the cultural hub that is London. Whilst we may have to wait a little longer for some of the bigger, money-driven producers to take the plunge, meaning “Hamilton”, “Dear Evan Hansen”, “Mamma Mia”, “Mary Poppins”, “The Book of Mormon” and “Les Misérables” (the full scale musical), will not be reopening until later in the summer, this at least gives us the opportunity to patronise the new, fresh talent that is on the scene.

Theatre is returning, in earnest, and I am confident that the community of fans will celebrate it appropriately, as it builds back momentum in the coming months. It is easy to take for granted the wealth of live entertainment that our city has to offer. I hope this extended hiatus has allowed for some reflection, and taught us to value every moment of magic that the world has to offer. You can listen to my episode of Roarcast, to hear more about my experience of theatre and the community on Spotify now.

west end to reopen

Matthew Seaman’s Roarcast Episode

Podcast Editor and Culture Writer for Roar News.

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